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    Democracies? Where are Democracies?

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    Dmitry Babich
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    As a former Soviet citizen born in 1970 and a graduate of Moscow State University's department of journalism, class 1992, I belong to the generation that was taught to emulate the Anglo-Saxon standards of journalism.

    I remember how in 1986, because there were only two national channels on Soviet television, the whole nation watched the first uncensored interview of a Western leader in the Soviet media – that was the interview of the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher with three Soviet journalists. Mrs. Thatcher then said a phrase which ran counter to everything our history teachers had half-heartedly taught us at school. She said: "There was no precedent in history when one democracy would attack another one."

    Next day at my high school 95 percent of my classmates agreed with Thatcher and lambasted the poor three journalists for asking her "provocative" questions. The phrase about "democracies not fighting each other" in the next 10-15 years would become a commonly held opinion in Russia, with most of Gorbachev's and Yeltsin's foreign and security policies being based on this belief. We should become a democracy – and then we shall be safe.

    In the years following 1986, we were told numerous times about other important elements of Western democratic world.

    Democracies do not have political campaigns, with hatred against an "enemy nation" fanned by the media and hostile foreign politicians demonized to the point of de-humanization; democracies are soft-spoken, with a prohibition of depicting whole ethnic groups as hostile or in any other way dangerous; democracies are never paranoid about foreign spies, just vigilant… Also in a democracy, you respect your opponent during a discussion, you argue against his opinions, and not his personality, you don't present your opponent as a foreign agent or a person on someone else's payroll, etc.

    Like the majority of Russians, I had my first doubts about some of the Western countries being democracies after NATO's attack against Yugoslavia in 1999. I gave credence to Western reports about "hundreds of thousands" of Albanians having been slaughtered in Kosovo before the start of NATO's bombing in spring 1999, so I expected the mass graves to be uncovered soon after the Serb troops left Kosovo in summer the same year. But months went by, and those same Western journalists who had written about the mass graves in Spring 1999 suddenly lost interest in the theme, compensating the absence of apologies to readers with continued curses against Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic.

    Influenced by them, I was eager to denounce Milosevic as an extremist nationalist in my liberal newspaper where I worked at the time, The Moscow News. So, I took the Serb-Russian dictionary, went to library and read all of Milosevic's speeches in search of ethnic slurs and great power posturing. I COULD NOT FIND A SINGLE QUOTE. So much for modern Western democracies not de-humanizing their opponents.

    But may be it was just an aberration? Maybe democracies still avoid ethnic slurs themselves and are immune to "spy-mania"? OK, I read a recent article in The New York Times, about "two top Republicans in Congress supporting investigations into possible Russian cyberattacks to influence the American election."

    "The Russians are not our friends," the Senate's majority leader Mitch McConnell is quoted as saying, having accused "Russians" of hacking the Democrats' email servers – without any evidence presented. "We need to approach all these on the assumption the Russians do not wish us well," McConnell added.

    The phrase made me nostalgic of Cold War times. Even in the period of tension in the early 1980s it was unthinkable for a Soviet official to say that America as a nation were our enemies. We Soviets, in fact, had our own variant of political correctness, without knowing it. "Certain circles in Washington" and some faceless "world imperialism" were our enemies, not "Americans" at large.

    As for spy-mania, senator McConnell's description of the CIA is so enthusiastic, it makes the Soviet cult of the "first Chekist" Felix Dzerzhynski look like scathing criticism. Speaking at a congressional hearing, McConnell confessed to "having the highest confidence in the intelligence community, especially the CIA." Outpacing any praise one could hear addressed to the KGB until the Soviet Union's collapse in 1991, McConnell added that the "CIA is filled with selfless patriots, many of whom anonymously risk their lives for the American people."

    Another senator, Lindsey Graham, demanded "crippling sanctions" against Russia, because some anonymous "Russians" allegedly hacked his campaign' email. With this sort of attitude, there won't be many "non-crippled" nations left on the face of the Earth, since even Israel was accused of spying on the US… So much for absence of spy-mania in modern Western democracies.

    Do these senators understand that their statements discredit the notion of the US and its allies being democracies? The whole campaign against Trump's pick for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson (he was denounced for having talked to Putin during his business trips to Russia) – do the perpetrators of this campaign know what it reminds Russians of?

    In the 1930s, Stalin gave an unofficial order to locate and punish (sometimes by death) all people who had ever had contact abroad with Leo Trotsky or his son, Vladimir Sedov, after their exile from the USSR in 1929. The mere instance of a talk, let alone a dinner, with Leo or Vladimir was seen as a "license to execution."

    So, when I read articles in The Washington Post denouncing Michael Flynn for having attended a gala dinner with Putin in 2015, you can understand the historical parallels. And when senator Marco Rubio of Florida tweeted about Tillerson that "being a 'friend of Vladimir' is not an attribute I am hoping for a secretary of state," howis that different from the prohibition on unsanctioned encounters with foreigners the one the Soviet Union had for many years?

    History seems to have come full circle. The dark pages of the USSR's past reveal themselves to be a lesson even more useful to modern Westerners than to modern Russians.

    The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.

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    Tags:
    journalism, democracy, Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump, Michael Flynn, Joseph Stalin, Mikhail Gorbachev, Margaret Thatcher, United States, Russia, Yugoslavia, USSR
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    • avatar
      giorgoskaz11
      The western world blames Russians almost for everything nowadays, as the Russians blame the Soviets for everything. Both are not true, because on both cases arguments are not substantiated, or are very weak, or most probably pure propaganda.
    • avatar
      topolcats
      Being a constant long term visitor of Thailand many of my predictions have come true, (Brexit-Trump winning), also that Thailand would vote in a Military Gov by (64%) to oversee the Thai Constitution from any form of Gov that follows. It should surprise no one that in a future Thai election, the head of the Junta, Prayut is meant to win by a landslide. That means military rule by democratic defacto means.
      I understood in 2013 the Thais were feed up with democracy. Thais saw it as simply a waste of time Red shirts vs Yellow shirts destroying Thai stability and thus everyday livelihood by curtailing tourism etc. Well what has changed under military rule lite 2016?..Actually Nothing, the girls are still out, Bangkok is still as lecherous,vibrant as it ever was,food & shopping still great with streets cleaner & drug dealing having been greatly reduced. In short Thailand is stable, that is exactly what Thais want! If a military Gov is going to give it to them then they will be in power forever.

      If I compare that to Australia?
      I see only a two party state controlled by the USA as complete puppets..voting for labor is exactly the same as voting for the opposition liberals. The people unknowingly turned into poor copies of American redneck by dress & US propaganda. The Americans have succeeded the majority Aussies are about as dumbed down as most American themselves. The more dumbed down & indoctrinated the people, the easier to control ! Ozzie's vote because if they don't, they get fined. But what is the point of voting if you have no difference in what party or platform you are voting for?...Clearly Democracy is a failure when you do not have different choices..You might as well be a 2 party dictatorship.
      I am not sure what can replace so called Democracy?
      What I am certain is that Democracy is a Fraud, (especially in the West)..people should just stop pretending it works!
    • sapper
      A brilliant piece. Only thing not mentioned is how far US politicians have got their heads up their collective a***s!! Guess they are still looking for the sunshine!!!
    • avatar
      posttrumpism
      Democracy is something like a sport for game of thrones for lawyer Thieves...

      Having 1 party can mean that there is no one else to blame, saving time and money not wasted in drama election, vote recounts? (see China, VN, Cuba...)

      That said, tempting greedy humans ate too corrupt for any system -- unless society value morality and justice for all !
    • avatar
      jas
      Excellent article. The comments often reflect the fact that the West has become the USSR Russia is the free nation, representative of its people.
    • avatar
      Austrian School
      Democracy, the holy cow, is a wrong concept in itself.
    • avatar
      tobi.gelando
      A very fine article !! It remind me +/- 1965 I was a real supporter of the Usa !!! for me all in the Usa was better greater with more freedom Etc. I told to any one who like or not like to hear it !! Than came Viet Nam and there came daubs very big daubs and I start to understand the Usa politic !!! and I was very destroyed !!! After the pic of the naked burning little grille all my understanding for the Usa was gone until today !!! I believe this will not more change in my Live !!!
      The Usa is a dictator ship from Reps and Democrats !!!
      Better say it is a Terror State !!!
    • Dar...
      This is a well crafted piece. It's interesting to discover that Thatcher's rhetoric was believed in the USSR at a time when she was known as a deluded, bare faced liar by the majority of the population of her own country.

      Politicians and the press in the west have always been hypocritical liars, but they used to be much better at it. They understood that their existence ultimately depended on a plausible myth of benign rule. They once feared openly breaking the social compact with their electorates.

      Hubris has now replaced caution. The corporate elite wrongly believe themselves immune to all risk. The bellicose rise of macho capitalism has brought the egotistical communication strategies of multinational corporations to the diplomatic community. The press says only what they are scripted to say, just like the PR of any company.

      CEO's, Chairmen and the Banks have boldly stepped out of the shadows behind the thrones and usurped their puppet politicians. Career bureaucrats always copy their leaders style. The inevitable consequence being that nations now behave exactly like aggressive companies, employing all the same strategies of naked greed and ruthless disdain for human life. It was always doomed to end this way.
    • The SPutin Image
      Westerners who 'stick their necks out' and staunchly reject Russophobia, along with the false narratives and blatant lies surrounding the phenomenon recently, they are the most patriotic. They are also not alone. What's going on now, with neoconservative globalists, is nothing short of madness. The present struggle is not so much about USA versus Russia but rather, it is about neoconservative globalists versus Humanity.
      Everything is at stake and Humanity will please stand together to subdue the threat, the beast.
      The world may soon find out if patriots or lunatics will prevail.

      If it's not too much to ask, please hope for the patriots.

      From another recent article on Sputnik:
      'the decline of empire is a messy affair' - William Blum
      sputniknews.com/analysis/201612191048739772-russia-hysteria-west-decline
    • avatar
      Randall Lee Hilburn
      teddy j, As an American I am forced to admit that you are 100% correct.

      It is actually incorrect to call this past US election a fraud. It would be more appropriate to call it a sham. Trump was already picked as president long before any voting took place, with Clinton knowingly running a fake campaign. To some of us it became blatantly obvious a long time ago.

      The United States is a Corporatist State, also called Right Fascist. That is government of, by, and for corporations. It has been this way ever since the rise of Lincoln and the Republicans. Not that it was perfect before then.

      I've quit wasting my time voting, because the corporations are in control, democracy here is completely meaningless. From the local to the national level it is all the same. I have seen the beast from the inside and I know what I am talking about. If anybody really wants American style "freedom and democracy" all they have to do is turn their countries over to the giant corporations and the great banks and you'll promptly receive a belly full of it.
    • avatar
      posttrumpism
      Perhaps the base mendacious behaviors are encouraged by the Atlantist-NAto establishment to ensure we get asshat political "standards" (low moral bar = corruptible) instead of positive brilliant statespersons
    • avatar
      Yaffle
      "How is that different from the prohibition on unsanctioned encounters with foreigners the one the Soviet Union had for many years?” asks Dmitry Babich. Could there be a reason for this prohibition by the USSR? Was the Soviet Union welcomed by its fellow nations when first created? Or did it face widespread animosity and have to fight against a collection of foreign countries seeking to undermine it?
      And which nation, or nations, has attacked the United States of America? What cause have they to be suspicious of others bad intentions? Is its existence threatened? If so, by whom?
      We all live in a 'bubble of belief' current at the time. Humankind is prone to fashionable belief. History later reveals how wrong we were.
    • landauroj
      Friend, democracy cannot ever bring social justice. Democracy is bases in resources ownership, land, and the means of production with the purpose of enrich the owners. Owner are not there to think in social justice. Qaddafi government as well as Stalin were not democrats but they did a lot to improve the life of their citizen by improving health, education, housing, means of production to feed the people, and improve work conditions. If a dictator can provide that, then what to worry about an artificial concept of democracy. We have centuries of democracy, and so far it has favored the rich countries and brought misery to poor countries who were exploited of their natural resources to help the EU to keep in good shape. That is why democracy is. We have been con all these centuries and the mass media is there to propagate this gospel.
    • avatar
      topolcatsin reply tolandauroj(Show commentHide comment)
      landauroj,...Thank You..You are absolutely Right!
    • avatar
      ivanwa88
      Elvis on FB post the point was that NATO illegally bombed another nation on the notion that 100's of thousands had been slaughtered no one doubts there were atrocities with 1000's of victims not 100's of thousands! seems like a mute point when talking about human life but we are talking about the justification for a major military intervention.

      In reference to many of the posts today's so called 'democracy' has actually become 'fascism' a convenience to wage indiscriminate hybrid war in over compensation for failing western economies who are technically insolvent.

      Russia's vast resources are now seen as essential for western democracies (fascist states) to maintain there status quo. The attempt to militarily dominate other major nations is about protecting there trading routes and trading dominance.

      To carry out this most undemocratic process it must cover up the lies and hypocrisy to keep the people from throwing them out and revamping the political system back to true 'Democracy'.
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